Objective: Lay theories about willpower—the belief that willpower is a limited versus nonlimited resource—affect self-control and goal striving in everyday life (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). Three studies examined whether willpower theories relate to people’s subjective well-being by shaping the progress they make towards their personal goals.
Method: A cross-sectional (Study 1) and two longitudinal studies (Study 2 & 3) measured individuals’ willpower theories and different indicators of subjective well-being. Additionally, Study 3 measured goal striving and personal goal progress.
Results: A limited theory about willpower was associated with lower subjective well-being in a sample of working adults (Study 1, N = 258). Further, a limited theory predicted lower levels of well-being at a time when students faced high self-regulatory demands (Study 2, N = 196). Study 3 (N = 157) replicated the finding that students with a limited theory experienced lower well-being in phases of high demands and found that personal goal progress mediated this relationship.
Conclusions: The belief that willpower is based on a limited resource has negative implications not only for self-control but also for personal goal-striving and subjective well-being.